Recently, there have been several changes rumored and announced regarding various aspects of Walt Disney World. This post is not about those changes, but instead about what I perceive to be the complete and utter insanity of Disney fans in their response to these changes. I touched on this subject once before, when I talked about the reaction to Disney changing the name of the carousel.
Someone on one of the chat sites I participate in recently made what I consider to be a very profound and wise statement: “It always amazes me the number of people who profess their love for Disney while simultaneously expecting the worst from Disney.” I could not agree more. Let’s look at some of the recent changes and the “fan” reaction to them:
Starbucks is Coming! Starbucks is Coming!
When Disney first announced their new partnership with Starbucks, and that Starbucks coffee would be sold in all 6 domestic theme parks, there was a palpable sense of joy erupting from the coffee-loving portion of the Disney fan community. For years, they had lamented the dearth of options available, positing that the prevalent Nescafe was “disgusting brown water”, and resorting to bringing their own coffee makers from home. But now, “real” coffee would be available! Hallelujah, the Disney Deities have answered our prayers, they hailed. That lasted for all of about an hour.
The second part of the reaction was to lambaste Disney for having the audacity to allow Starbucks to “invade” the theme parks. This outrage came in two phases, the first being immediately after the original announcement. The second round of righteous anger came when Disney announced that the Main St Bakery would be undergoing a refurb and when it reopened, would serve Starbucks-branded items in addition to traditional Disney favorites. And the internet exploded. “NO!” they cried. “How can they do this?!” “Starbucks doesn’t belong on Main St!” “It doesn’t fit the theme!” “Walt is rolling in his grave!” This last one is my particular favorite, and it will come around again – absolutely ANYthing that a particular Disney fan doesn’t like, that Disney fan will claim that “Walt is rolling in his grave”, even when it can be objectively and unambiguously proven that the subject is not significantly different to the way things were in Walt’s day. In this particular case, the facts were these:
- The Main Street Bakery is not closing for good. Nor is it being replaced with a Starbucks.
- The MSB is being refurbished. When it reopens, it will serve Starbucks coffees in addition to traditional MSB favorites.
- The employees at the MSB will still be Disney cast members.
- The MSB will still be themed to the early 1900s, just as it always has been.
- When the Magic Kingdom opened, there were no less than eight corporate sponsors with shops located on Main St, including Hallmark, Smuckers, Gulf, and even CocaCola. To say that “this isn’t what Walt wanted” is ludicrous in the extreme.
- The first Starbucks-branded location has already opened, to little-to-no fanfare, at Disney California Adventure. It is not a “Starbucks restaurant”. It is a Disney restaurant that serves Starbucks goods. The only indication of the Starbucks presense is a logo on the side of The Fiddler, Fifer, & Practical Cafe
These facts did little, if anything, to quell the outrage of the Disney fan response. No, they were righteously angry, and they were going to make darn tootin’ sure that we all knew it.
FastPass+ – the End of Happy Park Touring as we Know it
The second change that seemed to rob the Disney fan community of its collective sanity is the introduction of FastPass+. This is part of a sweeping overhaul to the Disney experience collectively known as “MyMagic+”. When FP+ finally rolls out, guests will be able to make reservations for attractions and fireworks/parade viewing before they ever arrive at the park. FP+ went through a few testing phases, with select guests being chosen via email or at the Orlando airport as they were about to board Magical Express. During the testing phase guests selected three or four attractions (from a specific set) to create a ride time reservation for, and were given an encoded RFID card to use to tap at the attraction entrance to verify their eligibility to use the FP+ queue.
The reaction to this coming change has been extreme. Among some of the comments:
- This will destroy the way we tour the parks
- I don’t want to have to make ride reservations 180 days in advance
- They’re just squeezing more and more money out of us!
- Walt is rolling in his grave! Park experience shouldn’t be better for the wealthy!!
The first two, while phrased with absurdity, have at least a granule of understandability to them. It will not “destroy” the way you change the parks, it will merely change it, just as the original introduction of FastPass itself changed it. Will it be better or worse for you individually? Until it actually rolls out, you have absolutely no way of knowing. Not many people want to make ride reservations 180 days in advance. And therefore, not many will. Regardless, nobody HAS to make ride reservations at any point, be it the day before or 180 days before (180 days, btw, is a figure pulled from the thin air of the people with these reactions – nothing in any official Disney announcement has said anything about 180 days. Indeed, the official Terms & Conditions explicitly state that Magic Your Way ticket holders (ie, almost everyone, except AnnualPassholders) will be able to make reservations 60 days in advance). The option of riding standby is not going away. In fact, because so many more attractions are being outfitted with FP+ than ever had regular FP, the likelihood is that standby wait times are going to go down. When you take into account how many people will make reservations that far in advance and then no-show those reservations, you can imagine the standby waits going down even more.
The next response, I hope I don’t have to point out, is laughably absurd. Of COURSE they’re trying to get more money out of you. They are a business. That’s what they do. That’s what they’ve always done. That’s what they always will do. And you will give it to them, because you estimate that the experience they provide is worth the money they’re charging. If you didn’t, regardless of how much you might complain about it, you wouldn’t go. Period.
But by far, far and away, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my favorite response ever, is the last one. First, the response stems from unsubstantiated RUMORS that either A) those staying onsite will have access to FP+ that those offsite will not, B) those staying at the better (ie, more expensive) hotels will have access to more FP+ options than those staying at the cheaper places, and/or C) additional FP+ options will be available at an upcharge. Now, let’s start off by quickly pointing out that there is absolutely no reason to believe any of these, as Disney has said absolutely nothing to the effect. On the contrary, they’ve said explicitly that MyMagic+ will be available to ALL Disney Parks guests, including both onsite and offsite, both passholders and single-day ticketholders. But let’s ignore that fact for a moment. Let’s pretend like any or all of A, B, and C are actually true. Does this justify the outrage, and the claim that “Walt is rolling in his grave” because Disney park execs are providing a better experience to those with more money?
Of course not. This notion that Walt Disney World is some kind of egalitarian alternate universe where everyone is treated equally regardless of wealth is patently absurd. If income didn’t matter, a meal at Victoria & Alberts would cost the same as a meal at Pecos Bills. If income didn’t matter, a Magic Kingdom view room at Bay Lake Tower would cost the same as a parking lot view room at All Star Sports. If income didn’t matter, a 10 day ticket would cost the same as a 2 day ticket. If income didn’t matter, the $10,000 crystal replica of Cinderella Castle would cost the same as the $10 Christmas tree ornament. Those with more means and more expendable cash always get a better experience, everywhere they go. That is simply the way the world at large works, and it’s the way Walt Disney World works as well.
But the part of this that makes me giddy with absurdity, that makes the “Walt is rolling in his grave” comment leap from the silly to the willfully ignorant, is this: Not only is the idea of those with more money getting a better experience not a new concept, it was significantly more of a concept in Walt’s time. When Walt Disney was running Disneyland, everyone paid one flat price to get into the park – and then each individual attraction cost money. Those with more money to spend got to go on more rides. But even more than that – the better rides, the so-called “E-tickets” cost more money than the lesser, “A-ticket” rides. Not only did people with more wealth get to go on more rides, they got to go on better rides. That is an idea that was eliminated only several years after Walt passed away. So how on earth can anyone claim that the idea of giving people with more money a better experience would be contrary to what Walt would have wanted? Walt didn’t just abide by that reality, he helped to create it!
In summary, Disney fans are an odd bunch. They love Disney, but seem to hate Disney for anything they try to do. They absolutely despise not only change, but the mere concept that change might come. Facts seem to have little effect on their outlooks, and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to have rational conversations with those that hold these views. I hope everyone will be willing to take a few steps back, figure out what is actually happening (rather than what is only rumored to be happening) and consider how the change fits into the larger picture. Guest feedback is a wonderful thing – some might even say it’s the only thing that will cause positive changes. When people rant irrationally and without facts to back them up, however, it gives Disney a justifiable reason to ignore that feedback. If you’re not going to speak logically and rationally about something, why should they listen to anything any of us have to say?